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What Is Cider?

We’ve been drinking a lot of cider recently in the name of research. Yes, research. On a mission to find out a lot more about cider and its history. Yes, we’re totally nerdy. 

So, first things first, cider is made from the fermented juice of cider apples. The process turns out to be very similar to winemaking – just with apples instead of grapes. Both of these fruits happen to be perfect for creating structured fermented beverages as they share three important characteristics: 

  1. Acidity: a sharp, sour flavor like lemon.
  2. Tannins: a bitterness or astringency, which comes from the fruit’s stems, seeds and skin. You can detect tannins when you drink cider or wine and there is a drying sensation in your cheeks. (No, that’s not your sunburn.)
  3. Sweetness: from the fruits’ natural sugars, which are converted to alcohol.

Unlike wine grapes, single cider varietals typically don’t contain all three of these properties, so to create a complex, balanced bottle it’s often necessary to blend several types of apples. And cider apples are quite different from ones you find at your greenmarket or grocery store. They are bitter and astringent – ever bite into a crab apple?

Here’s how it works: In the fall, apples are harvested and the juice is pressed, then fermented with yeast, which can take days or months depending on climate and the maker. Once the fermentation is done, it’s time to bottle and enjoy! Some makers go a step further and age the cider in wooden casks or barrels for additional depth of flavor.

A little history:

Did you know cider was the most popular drink for early Americans? Back in the 17th century (when’s the last time we wrote that!), English settlers brought along apple seeds and planted them throughout New England. Bitter, sour apples quickly flourished and making cider became a thing. Since water was a bit unsafe back then, cider was actually drunk for hydration. (Doesn’t sound so bad does it.) Then German beer showed up in the 19th century, and, of course, Prohibition in the 1920s – all of this led to the decline of cider and the loss of many of the apple varietals that go along with it.

Thankfully, with the huge growing interest in small-batch food and drink in recent years, we’ve been experiencing a cider resurgence here in the U.S. Makers like Shacksbury and Aaron Burr are working to bring back the lost varietals and traditional ciders. In our recent interview with David Dolginow of Shacksbury, we learned all about their ‘Lost Apple Project’, launched in 2013.

Enjoyment:

To experience what really makes cider great, drink it from a wine glass, and note the appearance and profound aromas. Cider pairs well with food because it’s low in alcohol and has balanced complexity, so it’s a really year-round beverage. To uphold tradition, this fall we’ve been guzzling it down like water!

Here’s what we’ve been opening lately:

Hoboken Station Cider: A light, fizzy and refreshing cider composed of a variety of different bittersweet apples. Its complexity reminds us of some of our favorite wines. A perfect match to your Thanksgiving turkey (especially one that’s roasted with fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme!).

Dry Vermont Cider Pét Nat: A soft, easy-to-drink cider made in the tillant Naturel style (or “Pét-Nat” for short) meaning that the fermentation finishes in the bottle. Try this beauty with Old Chatham’s Ewe’s Blue Cheese!

Gold Label Cider: It’s made in the traditional French méthode champenoise, which gives it a true Champagne style. It’s semi-sweet and light with a biscuity flavor. Enjoy solo or with Vermont Creamery Goat Cheese.

Time to start in-cider trading: Browse our entire collection of delicious ciders!

P.S. If it’s possible to have a crush on a book, we have one on Cider Made Simple: All About Your New Favorite Drink by Jeff Alworth. See? Told you we were nerds.

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